If you have ever signed up for the topsy-turvy exercise of training a puppy, you know firsthand how powerful the need for chewing can be. As puppy teeth make way for adult teeth, the pup fiercely feels the need to work those jaws on something. Some dogs seem to be content with a pile of chew sticks and some are happy focusing on one item—say, the corner of a dog bed. If you picked a puppy that is so easily appeased during teething time, consider yourself fortunate because there is still another type of dog: The chugga chugga chew chew. This type of dog chews relentlessly on anything and everything within its reach. Like a locomotive, it gnaws through the best leather shoes and gnashes its teeth on table legs. In the span of an 8-hour workday, the chugga chugga chew chew dog left on its own can destroy more pairs of shoes, articles of clothing and furniture than imaginable.
In my family’s experience with puppies, the number one house rule was to safely secure anything meant to be kept. If someone left shoes lying around, it was considered by the puppy to be a donation to the cause, and the cause was chewing. At one of our dog’s chewing phases, I discovered that she had targeted the lowest wooden pull on the bottom drawer of a dresser. It was wisely decided that it would not be replaced until after the chew season, lest she find something more valuable to damage. It was far easier to donate that one pull. By the time she was done, it looked like Swiss cheese. We replaced it when she was grown. I’d say we got off easy.
Recently, I met a frisky and cuddly Leonberger named Sassy. At nine months, Sassy weighs a robust 78 pounds. When she reaches adulthood, she is likely to tip the scales at 130-145 pounds. She is teething. Her humans kept the chewing under control with an abundance of toys and chewy bones—or so they thought. There have been a few mishaps: shoes chewed (several), toys annihilated, and the corner of her wooden bed frame will never be the same. When traveling by car, Sassy is confined to her lair on the back seat of the Range Rover. It is a comfortable and roomy place for her to stretch out for a nap or move from window to window, savoring whiffs of scent from the outside world as they speed by. Being a puppy, when her humans leave the vehicle, she sometimes gets bored. And sometimes when she’s bored, she remembers that she might fancy a good chew. After one such trip, Sassy’s owners were surprised (horrified) to find that she had chewed big holes into the handcrafted leather arm rest in the back seat. It didn’t appear that she swallowed any of the stuffing or leather, as the bits were strewn all over, but she did destroy it, of that there was no doubt. Evidence from the scene showed that, apparently, once she grew tired of the driver’s side, she aimed for the passenger side arm rest and the door panel in general, leaving it with gaping holes, ragged tears and deep scratches. There was nothing to do but replace both door panels—an expensive and lengthy process. And so, they took their lumps and ordered replacements. After a couple weeks, Sassy’s humans were certain that the chewing phase was over, so they had the replacements installed. It took less than a week to prove them wrong. Once again, Sassy was briefly left alone in the car and once again she made a fine mess of the door panel—the replacement, that is. Turns out, the quality leather and hand stitching are irresistible. Sassy’s humans ordered yet another set of door panels—one to install and the other to have on hand, just in case. They are fervently hoping that they will not need it.
Some years back, in the early ’90s, friends adopted two Dalmatian puppies. The breed is energetic and easily bored, but they were surprisingly manageable. At six months old, the pups were showing no tendencies toward destructive chewing, so her humans felt pretty confident leaving them home alone. So far, so good, they thought midweek. Little did they know that they were being lured into a false sense of confidence. It wasn’t until Thursday that something went wrong. Very wrong. The minute they opened the front door, it became obvious something was amiss. For starters, the carpet was wet—soaking, in fact. Looking up, they noticed the ceiling was saturated too. What on earth could have gone wrong? The investigation yielded no answers until they made it to the upstairs master bedroom, where it all became painfully clear. The couple had left the bedroom in order that morning, an oasis of relaxation and comfort, from the sitting chair to the luxurious bedding on the waterbed. Their previously angelic puppies turned devilish on that waterbed, chewing and ultimately breaking the mattress. Water leaked onto the carpet—200 gallons of water—that then seeped through the flooring and saturated the downstairs ceiling, which dripped onto the carpet below.
Regardless of the type of puppy you’ve chosen—whether it be a docile type, easily satisfied with a few chew sticks or a dedicated chugga chugga chew chew type bent on destruction, it may be comforting to remember: This, too, shall pass.